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GroceryAid provides financial, emotional and practical support to people working in the grocery sector

GroceryAid has hailed what it called an “unprecedented” level of support and engagement from the grocery sector over the past 12 months, after its latest Impact Report showed demand for its services continues to soar.

During a year defined by rising living costs and surging levels of crime in stores, it saw a 44% increase in colleagues asking for support, with the charity providing aid in more than 40,000 separate incidents.

However, it credited the rise as a reflection of an increasing number of grocery businesses engaging with the charity, and signposting colleagues to support.

GroceryAid was founded in 1857, and over the past 166 years has provided financial, emotional or practical support to people working within the grocery sector, and wider supply chain. Its annual Impact Report, which outlines the extent of support provided and funds raised, can give an insight into some of the challenges facing the industry at present.

The cost of living crisis was front and centre for many, with the charity seeing a 35% increase in applications for financial support. Visits to a newly launched cost of living advice page launched last year received 6,735 visits alone in the first six months after launch.

In January 2023, the charity launched a specialist cost of living grant, which awards £300 one-off payments to households of colleagues who do not meet the criteria for a standard financial grant, but are in receipt of means-tested benefits. The scheme saw 357 grants issued during the first 10 weeks of launch.

In total GroceryAid distributed £3.2m across 4,376 grants overall – an increase of 11% on the previous year.

Worker abuse response

GroceryAid also reported an increase in the number of colleagues asking for practical, legal or emotional support. Calls to its 24/7 helpline increased by 13%, to 10,000 overall.

Levels of violence and abuse committed against shopworkers almost doubled in 2022 compared with pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium’s crime survey released in March.

The charity has a network or mental health first-aiders and trained counsellors who can respond in cases where colleagues need support dealing with traumatic events. In total, GroceryAid saw a 180% increase in ‘workplace critical incidents’ being reported.

It raises funds through a calendar of set-piece events and wider fundraising efforts. They include, for the third year running, an annual music festival, Barcode. This year’s event in July raised a record-breaking £1m.

In total, the charity raised £14.6m in fundraising, including £2.2m in donations from supporters, while its Diversity and Inclusion programme, which includes its D&I in Grocery Live event, contributed £1.2m.

“Providing this unprecedented level of support is only possible because organisations within the grocery industry help us by fundraising and raising awareness,” said GroceryAid president Allan Leighton. 

“We understand the challenges that the industry is facing and the importance of our services remaining relevant.”

In September, former Ginsters MD Kieran Hemsworth will take over as the new CEO of GroceryAid, replacing outgoing chief Steve Barnes.